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Moment of Battle : the Twenty Clashes That Changed the World / by Jim Lacey and Williamson Murray

Moment of Battle: The Twenty Clashes That Changed the World - Jim Lacey, Williamson Murray

Let me start off by saying that one should probably disregard the number of stars that I gave this book.  They are merely a reflection of how the book and I got along, they are not an accurate reflection on the quality of the book.

 

Moment of Battle is military history.  It covers the twenty battles whose outcome the authors believe changed the course of world history.  The book begins with the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., and ends with Objective Peach, the Drive for Baghdad in 2003.  So it covers a lot of history.

 

The authors write clearly and enthusiastically about their subject; they are clearly knowledgeable and have put deep and broad thought into the battles and into how those battles changed world history.  They spend time covering not only the battles, but the key figures in those battles, trying to bring to life their motivations, their thought processes, and their brilliance (or lack thereof), and their humanity.  The book is well written, colorful, enlightening, and educational.  Sometimes the reading is quick, other times it's a slog.  It really depends on the battles being waged.    

 

BUT.  But.  I do not have a mind that can envision the scene of battle to the extent that this book demands.  I can't keep in my mind what division is over here, and whose company is doing what over there, and what the cavalry is doing back there, and what tank battalions are rolling over what village.  My brain could not keep track of the battle, particularly once we hit WW I and warfare became impersonal mechanized massacre on a grand scale (which in itself was eye opening and terrifying, by the way).  To help me track the battles I could have used one of those big battle maps like you see in war rooms.  When we are talking about 1000, or 3000, or 5000 troops, I can see it.  When we are talking about 20,000, or 50,000, or 250,000 dead on both sides, it's beyond my scope of comprehension.

 

The other thing I noticed about this book is that the battles were largely centered on Western civilization.  Greece, Rome, and European battles figured prominently.  The battle of Dien Bien Phu, and the Battle of Midway were covered, but that's pretty much it for Asia.  I did find that a little odd, since you know, China.  In over 5000 years of history there has to be a battle or two there that shaped the world.  And then there's Genghis Khan.  Betcha he is responsible for some world changing war activity.  Not to mention Korea, which let's face it, is a place of great interest to the world even today.  South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, and Russia all keep a watchful eye on that little corner of the world.  Battles in the New World weren't covered.  I would argue that the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, Inca, and Maya probably changed the world to a great degree, and certainly changed the face of the Western Hemisphere.  But anyway.  The authors covered 20 battles, not 50.  There will always have to be omissions when one is setting a numerical limit.

 

Overall the book is a good read if you like history, military history in particular.  I'd argue that you need to be prepared to spend some time with the book, though, and be prepared for enough description of battle to make you think you need to go wash the blood off your hands when you put the book down.